Remembering bygone days of Rowan Mills
By Rodney Cress
For the Salisbury Post
Memories are what they are, and what they are meant to be. Rowan Mills, just south of Salisbury, was just that kind of place for me to accept as the good part of my life. I frequently join others from there over a meal at the Farmhouse Restaurant, and they all have the same warm feelings about this place of humble upbringing. Though I could not locate the exact date of the forming of this community, it does have an important history.
With the first post office formed in Salisbury on June 12, 1792, with George Lauman as postmaster, Rowan Mills followed by setting up a post office on January 7, 1856 and ran until February 25, 1884, with Osborn G. Foard as the Postmaster. It opened again later and I found no record that it ever closed again. I located a post card and Confederate stamp dated April 19, 1862, that was forwarded to Rowan Mills from Tyro.
Itís also important to note that when the Rowan Rifle Guard militia was formed in 1858 as the first from Rowan to volunteer for state service, the Scotch-Irish Grays formed the same year and mustered into state service on June 3, 1861, while camped at Rowan Mills.
The textile industry began in the 1800s in North Carolina, and by 1900 there were 186 mills that employed 38,637 workers across the state. The Rowan Mills community stood tall with dedicated and skilled employees, many of whom worked 45 to 50 years just across the street from their homes.
There are many fond memories of Rowan Mills. R.G. Kizer School topped the list. There were good dedicated teachers and good cafeteria food. I can never forget the fall festivals at the school where each room was set up with games and cake walks, grab bags and fishing over a blanket while the teacher on the other side would pin a prize on your line. It was just a very simple but meaningful way to enjoy life. The school is still there today but wasting away to be used only as storage. I would love to see it revitalized and put to good use. Crime had no place at Rowan Mills, but just like Mayberry, we had our own ěOtis,î the town drunk.
There were two churches on the same street, one Methodist and one BaptistÇ and of course the Baptist would always sing the loudest. Then there was the Boy Scout hut, a large two-story white frame building with a huge fireplace and open room we used for dances and parties. Directly behind the hut was one of the very best wooden baseball stadiums anywhere in North Carolina. The teams that played there were excellent, and lots of skilled players showed up on the red dirt field.
There was the general store run by Sam Simpson, a wonderful and generous man. He also housed the post office and ran the butchery. Outside the store was the barber shop and above was the general office for the cotton mill. On the same side of the street was a small service station and beside that was the ěShack,î home of the best burgers and dogs anywhere, with a few bar stools and a few tables but the food was worth the trip. A community where we enjoyed marbles, jack rocks, hop skipping, toy soldiers, dice, cards and bike riding.
Today Rowan Mills has all but vanished as we knew it, but with the streets still there, it is easy to close my eyes and imagine all the great people who lived their entire lives there. Each year, Rowan Mills residents get together for a reunion in the fall. They share stories of how this community managed to defeat hard times, and they bask in the memories of what their lives were back then and the values they learned while living at Rowan Mills. Bless them all.
Rodney Cress lives in Salisbury.